‘IPL media rights is a case study for the world to understand where OTT industry is going’

Jean Francois Pigeon, Global EVP & Head of Sales-Marketing, Synamedia, says piracy will be a big concern for IPL broadcasters and streaming providers

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Jun 27, 2022 8:29 AM  | 6 min read
Synamedia

Co-owned by Permira and Sky UK, Synamedia provides tech solutions for managing content experience. Started as ‘NDS’ way back in the 1990s, the company now caters to 200+ Pay TV operators and 350 million devices. Synamedia is currently focussing on online piracy of Live sport events. 

Service providers and media rights holders can unlock up to $28.3 billion in new revenue each year by reducing sports piracy, says a study conducted by Synamedia in partnership with Ampere Analysis.

Some of the company’s clients include AT&T, Astro, Disney, Sky, Verizon and Vodafone, and Indian players like Tata Sky, Airtel and Star India. The company has its research centre in Bengaluru, and regional offices in Chennai and Delhi.

The company’s Global EVP & Head of Sales and Marketing, Jean Francois Pigeon, was in India last week. e4m caught up with JF (as he is popularly known) to understand Synamedia’s strategy for India.

Excerpts:

How does Synamedia make a difference in the TV viewing experience?

Our technologies make it easy for any content provider, entertainment, sports or anything, to launch and monetize streaming services, protect content and services from piracy and add addressable advertising with business insights.

We personalize content giving users access to what they want on Linear TV, connected TV and digital platforms. Our technology makes users' experiences much more interactive and personalized.

In India, you already have partnerships with Tata Sky, Star India and Airtel. Are you exploring potential partnerships with Indian OTT providers, especially Reliance that has recently won the digital streaming rights to the Indian Premier League for Rs 23,775.16 crore ($2.7 billion)?

It is for the first time that the value of digital rights of a sports tournament has surpassed that of TV broadcast rights. The media rights of IPL matches that are played out in India are fascinating. Sports has always been premium content across the globe. OTT was not a natural platform for sports viewership. It's perfect for linear TV. However, the concept of sports telecasts going digital-first is mind-twisting. Reliance has an incredible mobile subscriber base to offer streaming services. They can leverage their mobile subscribers to monetize the streaming service for which they are paying a hefty amount. Cricket lovers are losing interest in watching the matches on TV due to frequent unwanted ads and sports OTT is growing due to the same reasons.

India is a fascinating market. What is being paid for a match is second only to the US’s National Football League (NFL). It’s above NBA, English leagues and other professional leagues around the world. The broadcasters and streaming providers will need to protect the content as piracy is going to be a big issue for such premium content. We are actively engaging with many Indian players in this space to discuss this topic.

Billions of dollars are lost every year due to piracy of content, films, TV shows, OTTs and even live telecasts of the sports.  How does Synamedia tackle piracy, by protecting the content from piracy or by tracking down pirates?

Our anti-piracy suite has been developed in Israel and it is the foremost location for surveillance technologies. In security, you have to assume first that piracy is happening, then you have to deal with it. We operate across all parts of the content security chain from Monitor to Detect to Disrupt using our tech solutions. We help streaming services and broadcasters in tracking down the source of the leak through watermarking technology which has many approaches. Client-level watermarking has its limits and hackers find their ways around it. Our forensic watermarking tracks down such leakages. 

Our technology also ensures that only authorized users can access the content. Subscribers often share credentials with their friends. Unauthorized access to OTT content dents a huge revenue of media players.

OTT viewership grew rapidly in India and other parts of the globe during the pandemic. With the markets opening up, how do you see OTT growth in the next five years?

In the post-Covid world, we have seen a lot of consolidation and closure of OTT services. Producing OTT content is expensive, and success is uncertain. People are willing to pay, provided they get desired content.

As an industry, it is a challenging period for OTT providers but sports OTT is growing. India is going to play the second-costliest feed in the world. You have the scale, you have the subscriber base.

IPL media rights is a case study for the entire world to understand where the OTT industry is going. India is a massive content creator, people love to scale up businesses. Due to lots of constraints, innovations come naturally to India. India is pushing the world to the limits. We have a lot of lessons to learn from India.

What other technologies are Synamedia working on?

Our data insights product (Clarissa) comes with 4 modules - content insight, audience insight (relevant for targeted advertising amongst other things), apps insights (to optimize user journeys and user interface), and operational insights (how to track and optimize delivery of content). As an insight tool, it gives intelligence for service providers to improve user experience.

Another product - Synamedia Go - allows operators to offer a vast content library without hefty system integration bills. Our ‘Iris' suite helps in targeted advertising. Iris works on the cloud model and standard interfaces for easy integration. We have now moved to adopting of SaaS as the natural platform for quick integration of products to the digital native global streaming ecosystem including India and APAC.

You have recently acquired Utelly. How does it fit into your strategy and are more such acquisitions in the pipeline?

We acquired two companies in the last two years - one is ContentArmor to strengthen our watermarking capabilities. People want to see all the content in one place. Utelly is positioned uniquely in this regard through its metadata and research recommendation. Utelly is our strategic acquisition piece for the industry. With so much data and information, we need to automate many things. We are looking to acquire more companies with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning expertise.

Do you eye any Indian company as well?  

Not really, not because we are opposed to acquiring Indian companies. The reality is that video-on-demand industry has been thriving globally for almost a decade, but in India it is more recent. So, innovation in this segment is also more recent. I have no doubt that with the constraints and money India has, a lot of innovations may come up in future. Then we will make the right acquisitions here as well.

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